Many apps pay you real money for doing things like watching videos and taking surveys, giving you more ways than ever to earn some extra cash working from home on your computer or smartphone. But using your home computer this way also carries risks that could cost you time and money.
For instance, if you download a browser extension that puts malware on your computer, it can slow down your machine. The faster you work, the more you can earn, so a slow computer can seriously impact your income potential. Some extensions from less-than-reputable websites might even install a keylogger on your computer and steal your personal data, which can lead to credit card fraud.
That doesn’t mean you should be afraid of working from home and making money on your computer. It just means you should be cautious about the websites you use and how you use them.
Follow these tips from cybersecurity experts to help prevent data breaches and keep your machine secure while you work.
1. Read Reviews To Make Sure You Are Working With Reputable Sites
Survey websites like dScouts, Vindale and Swagbucks are reputable sources to make money from home, as GOBankingRates has reported, but not all sites are legitimate. Read reviews to hear about other users’ experiences before you opt in to work with any website.
When you are earning money using apps or completing surveys, you should understand that you are relinquishing some of your privacy. “If you are willing to give up your data, that’s what they are paying you for,” said Jennifer Beam, an SEO and cybersecurity expert who also considers herself a privacy advocate. “But the good thing is that you are getting paid for your data. If you sign up for Facebook, for instance, they are collecting your data, too. But they’re not paying you.”
3. Disable Apps When You Aren’t Using Them
To prevent intrusive data tracking, Beam recommended disabling apps when you aren’t using them. For Android users, go into “Settings,” then “Apps” and select “Force stop.” This stops apps from running in the background.
iPhone and iPad users can turn off apps by clicking “Settings,” then “General,” and toggling the “Background App Refresh” setting to “Off.”
4. Be Knowledgeable About What Information You’re Sharing
Likewise, be cautious about what data you’re sharing. “Do not give an app access to all your contacts just to play a game, even if you’re earning money from that game,” said Natalie Berthe, founder of Cybersecurity for Humans.
5. Look for Money-Making Websites That Don’t Require Browser Extensions
While many reputable money-making websites do use browser extensions, if you are nervous about making changes to your computer or having your online actions tracked, you can look for companies that don’t require you to download any extensions to your browser.
6. Make Sure Your Anti-Virus Protection Is Up to Date
“If you’re going to consider making money using these type of websites,” Berthe said, “make sure you have comprehensive security software like Norton Utilities or MacAfee.”
Look for software that allows you to install protection on multiple devices. “If you install it correctly and allow it to, it will do everything you need it to do. It will scan the website and make sure it’s safe,” she said.
Most importantly, she added, “It will trigger you to pay attention.”
7. Make Sure You’re Using the Latest Browser and Latest Operating Systems
Once you’ve got your security software loaded, don’t think you’re completely safe, Berthe said. “Update your browser and operating system so you know you have the most up-to-date security settings.”
8. Isolate Your Money-Making Activities
Beam recommended installing a virtual machine, or VPN, over your existing operating system to isolate money-making apps from your other online activities.
This may be outside the technical capabilities of many people, though.
As an alternative, Berthe suggested using a separate email address that you don’t use for anything else. “The email doesn’t even have to have your name on it. It shouldn’t have any identifying information. That way, it’s not tracking anything else you are using,” she said.
You should shut down your other email addresses and use an incognito browser before visiting money-making websites or using browser extensions. “The [browser] extension is attached to the email address, but it can’t read what’s going on in your other stuff,” Berthe said.
Of course, to get paid you’ll need to provide PayPal or other financial information, and probably your Social Security number or tax ID number. But you can still protect your privacy and online activities by isolating your work on a separate browser.
9. Use Unique, Strong Passwords
Berthe pointed out that 90% of security breaches are based on what people do and don’t do. A strong, unique password for each money-making app should be your first line of defense against attacks.
“Never use the same password,” she said. “And never re-use a password that you’ve used before.” She recommended using a password manager to generate secure passwords, which also makes it easier to login to sites to earn money.
10. Keep Tabs on Your Financial Accounts
Monitor your financial accounts daily and set alerts and notifications so you can spot unusual activity immediately.
Understand the Difference Between Security and Privacy
It is understood that when you download money-making apps that collect your data, you are giving up a measure of privacy in exchange for discounts and cash back. Being conscientious about keeping your digital devices secure can help you avoid breaches that can cost you money.
“Security and privacy are different,” Beam said. “You can be really secure and not private.” As long as you understand the risks, you can make money online while keeping your computer safe.
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